How Your Eyes Deteriorate As You Age

As we grow older and accumulate more life experiences, both our minds and bodies grow and change with us. We may observe physical changes in our appearance, such as in our hair, skin, or nails, but we also undergo changes that may not be as outwardly apparent, especially those that happen slowly over time — such as the gradual deterioration of our vision (via Johnson Memorial Health).

According to the University of Michigan Health, our eyeballs are made up of an outer, middle, and inner layer. The white membrane covering the eyeball is called the sclera. Bulging at the center of the eye from this layer is the cornea. Within the middle layer lies the pupil, as well as the iris, or the pigmented part of the eye. The lens is behind the iris, while the retina sits towards the back of the eyeball as the innermost layer of the eye. It's the retina that is responsible for communicating to the brain what we see by taking in stimuli and sending nerve messages to the brain. All these layers work together to take in light through the eye. Through the added help of nerve cells and the brain, we are able to process visual images.

So how exactly does the anatomy of our eyes change over time?

Certain changes are a natural part of the aging process

Loss of focus is a natural part of the aging process when it comes to the eyes and is generally not cause for concern (via University of Utah Health). Over time, the lens of our eyeball loses flexibility, making it difficult to focus on objects at close range (via UCI Health). This is a health condition known as presbyopia, which is so common that most people need reading glasses after their mid-40s or 50s.

Additionally, as we age, our eyes often don't stay as hydrated as they once were. Stress, sunlight, and wind are just a few of many things that can place wear on the eye, causing them to progressively dry out (via UCI Health). Without being able to produce as many tears as we once did, burning or stinging sensations are not uncommon for those over the age of 50.

As you approach your 60s, it's also not uncommon to experience "floaters." Experts say these floating flecks are a result of the gradual breaking down of fluid behind the lens of the eye (via UCI Health). However, should you experience additional symptoms such as flashes of light, be sure to seek prompt medical care from an eye doctor.

While there are many changes your eyes may undergo as you age, experts at the University of Utah stress the importance of getting regular eye exams so you can be sure your eyes are operating just as they should be.